Trees, Sunlight, and Absolute Silence

Photo essay

Photo by Anu Anniah

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend two days in the heart of a verdant coffee estate in Coorg, Karnataka.

Lucky enough to have the ability to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch things. These are gifts we should always be thankful for.

Luckier still to be able to walk — through such an amazing green piece of the earth.

I have to admit that my friend dragged me on this walk. Cannot thank her enough.

Evening. When the Sun is in a mellow mood. When he is bathing all those who depend on him in a golden liquid. The golden hour.

It was quiet, a hush that you can feel only in the midst of nature. In spite of busy birds, in spite of the rustle of leaves, there is a quietness that can be felt only in places where there is nature all around and no humans or traces of what we call civilization. It makes you quiet. You hesitate to speak, breathe even. Even your brain seems to stop its otherwise frenetic activity.

That’s exactly what I felt, walking between the tall trees, dry leaves crunching deliciously beneath my shoes.

Photo by Anu Anniah

I enjoy walking on dry leaves. I find that sound and sensation absolutely heady. When no one is looking, I am not above jumping on bunches of them to derive extra sensory pleasure. And have you noticed how the sound varies depending on the nature of the leaves! A few weeks ago, I was at a place where there were these really huge dry leaves. The sound of those giant leaves crunching is — gosh, we need a new word for that sound! How about krruch? When I go stomping on the dry leaves, I hear the sound krruch krruch krruch.

Imagine that sound while all else is quiet. I felt like the trees, the bushes, all of them were sitting there watching me. Not in a bad or judgy way. Just watching me and thinking, ‘oh, she’s having a spot of fun, that one!’. They probably whispered to each other too. I wonder if the sudden inexplicable rustle of leaves is actually a whispered word to the neighboring tree?

Photo by Anu Anniah

What is that quote about a tree falling in a forest? Does anyone care? Maybe no one outside, but the forest sure cares. Look at the fallen tree in the picture! See how beautifully it is supported by the other one. My friend and I talked about how the tree continues to live because its neighborhood is so loving and giving. It was worth standing there and watching the whole symbiosis that was at play quietly without any show or fuss.

In his book, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben describes how he first discovered an ancient beech tree stump that was being kept alive by the surrounding beeches. Most trees are interconnected via their roots. When you read about such things, you begin to notice more. And then when you chance upon a forest episode such as the tree leaning casually on a friend, pieces of the puzzle begin to slowly come together. At least some of them. I am sure there are a zillion more pieces that us mere mortals haven’t even found yet.

Photo by Anu Anniah

Oh, and what can be said about the play of light! I felt giddy with excitement to be treated to such a sight. The Sun seemed in such a benevolent mood. By the mere act of getting off my butt and walking down that path, I was suddenly privy to a party with green and yellow disco lights. The music — a heady cocktail of birdsong by a thousand unseen birds. We craned our necks and held our breath to try and spot some. We got super lucky. We spotted and managed to recognize the Indian Gray Hornbill and thought we saw a Malabar Whistling Thrush.

The Sun packed up his golden rays and began to melt into the sky. The birds delivered one final crescendo and fell silent. It was time to retrace the path back to where we were staying. I dragged my feet slowly savoring every tree, leaf, and last rays of fading yellow light.

Once again, I was overwhelmed by how much beauty nature gives away for free and how little time we spend to appreciate all that is available to us.

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